Overview: To create employee handbooks that are effective, employers should include all necessary workplace policies, procedures and practices. In many instances, this policy manual can serve as an employer's best defense in defending any workplace practice or action such as the enforcement of a dress code policy or the investigation of a claim for sexual harassment in the workplace. An employer should ensure that all of the policies in the employee handbook are communicated to all employees and supervisors and that proper training on the policies is provided to the employees. An employer should frequently review the policies in its handbook to see if any need updating based on a change in any law or workplace practice or as the result of a workplace incident which requires clarification of a policy.
Trends: While best practice is to include a disclaimer in the employee handbook in order to prevent it from becoming part of an employment contract, employers should be aware that the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that an overly broad at-will disclaimer in an employee handbook may violate the National Labor Relations Act by infringing upon the rights of both union and non-union employees to engage in a protected concerted activity, i.e., working collectively to improve working conditions. Employers should also be aware that in confronting the diverse workforce of today, it may be necessary for employers to develop handbooks and policies in multiple languages to address employee needs.
Author: Beth Zoller, JD, Legal Editor
Updated to include information on the forthcoming 50-State chart: Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking Leave and Accommodation Laws by State and Municipality.
Hawaii employers seeking emphasize compliance with, and educate their workforces about the law, should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
Updated to incorporate protections related to domestic violence, a sexual offense or stalking, effective April 11, 2019.
Updated to include forthcoming amendment expanding discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Updated to reflect the handbook-related provisions in the Westchester County paid sick leave law, effective April 10, 2019.
Updated to reflect forthcoming law restricting microchip implantation.
HR guidance on how to create employee handbooks that includes all employment policies and practices.